Arkansas River Bridge
By Linda Boles
First Bridge Opens
Bixby’s wagon bridge over the Arkansas River was opened in September of 1911. It was labeled “the longest bridge in Oklahoma.” The structure was just a little over one-half mile in length and stood thirty feet above the riverbed.
The bridge united the Bixby, Fry, Shellenbarger and Willow Springs communities, schools and markets. It was doubly important because it provided the most direct route between Oklahoma’s second and third largest cities, Tulsa and Muskogee. The flow of traffic passed right by Bixby’s front door.
1938 Bridge Collapse
Around 7:45 p.m. on December 9, 1938, two 110 spans of the Bixby Arkansas River Bridge on Highway 64 collapsed. At the time of the collapse, a trailer truck and one car were on the bridge and fell approximately thirty feet into the river.
Traffic was stopped on the north side of the bridge by J. T. Lawmaster and R. R. Beasley. On the Bixby side of the bridge, John Wilson, a.k.a. Firpo, sounded the alarm. The first to reach the trapped victims in the vehicles were Roy Pittman, Ray Culp and Benny Moore. The three Bixby men rowed out through a swift current to the three victims, two men in the sedan and the truck driver. All were rescued (including the men’s hunting dog) and taken to Tulsa hospitals where they were treated for cuts, bruises and several broken bones.
After the collapse of the bridge, local traffic traveling north of the river from Bixby was rerouted through Jenks while a new bridge was being built. The new bridge was located about 1/2 mile west of the old bridge and Highway 64 was moved from Riverview to the new Memorial Drive.